Thursday, July 9, 2009

seattle to missoula - july 9/09

i left seattle about 10:45 wednesday am on a somewhat crowded, but not uncomfortable bus, thankful that the guy at the video terminal in the train station wasn't joining us to cut our heads off or whatever it is those stupid games teach people.

we had an hour stopover in spokane, where hot water for tea costs 50 cents for those willing to pay it, and the bus filled up.

within moments the woman next to me, upon hearing i'm from victoria, began to unravel the story of her life. i learned of communes and police harassment and hippie survival in vancouver and on the west coast of vancouver island during the 60s and 70s. i feel as though i know her three children and their spousal units, that i've been immersed in her 15 year rustic mountain cabin experience - the herbs, the hauling water from the river to wash the diapers, the wood burning stove, the outhouse - the wilderness survival tactics.

as we passed by the area where a silver mine dumped a supply of lead into the water supply of towns named kellogg and smeltville (?), where there's a gold fiver and a silver street (or something similar), my friend told me how devastated she was the first time she travelled through this region, just east of coeur d'alene. the mountains were bare, she said, the people's children were challenged with mental deficiencies, and even recently she met a man at the co-op where the volunteers who grew up in the region and suffered because of the poisoned water supply. but now, look, they've build the world's longest gondola, and a ski resort, and reinvigorated the town's economy. is it wise, i asked out loud, to repopulate such a region? wouldn't it be better to just let the earth recover? she agreed - it wouldn't be a great place to live.

i think my new friend's 60s activism burned out years ago - as so often happens with those of us who work and work and work to build a better world. she's been busy raising a family and enjoying her life, working at the co-op and hiking in the woods, and i realized, as i spoke of recent political events like the imprisonment of peace activists in israeli prisons, that her awareness of the current status of our world and all its players is not at all familiar to her. she still cares, but when i showed her my ipod, invited her to put the headphones in her ear and listen to amy goodman, her response was something of a person being invited into the 21st century. she managed about a half hour and then, with something of the desperation of an elder hippie who just can't imagine reimmersing herself into the abyss of our woeful world, pulled the earphones from her ears and expressed her despair that any gains they thought they had made are now all unravelling before her eyes. i told her i understand, and can she imagine what it's like for us, now, trying to carry on the work of peacemaking and human rights and progressive politics, and realizing, year after year, that there are no real successes? at least the hippies from the sixties saw some progress - my friend recounted the free health clinic in vancouver where she could get herbs for her ailments, the rights of women to choose their body's destinies, some victory in the end of the vietnam war. she tried voting a couple of times, she said, but what's the use. same game, different faces ...

a lovely woman named suzanne picked me up at the train station in missoula and i slept, again, in a bed. soon, i'm sure, the idea of having a private room with my own bathroom and a bed will be nothing more than a distant memory. so i'm enjoying the luxury.

we walked the river trails this morning, with her beautiful doggie sadie, and i'm now in a fairly hip coffee house where i received my soy latte in a paper mug even though i asked for a ceramic one. i'm doing my best, as i go, to educate folks about the last of the remaining ancient rainforests in the land from which i've ventured, of the run of the river projects that aim to remove every last british columbian river from wild status and devastate our province. it astounds me that people can be so progressive in some ways, and so destructive to the earth in others. habits, i realize, are tough to break, but using ceramic over paper seems a no-brainer. i don't mean to 'diss' missoula, it seems a lovely place, and it's not to say this is the only place on the planet where people are stuck in their old excessive resource using ruts, but it's something i keep hoping and hoping will change. i guess i'm guilty, too, of enjoying the odd latte ....

click here to see a few photos from seattle to missoula

and click here to see martin's photos from the border crossing july 5th.